A tale of perseverance
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon enter MVP territory in Air
From the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting (1997) to Dogma (1999) and The Last Duel (2021), best buddies and long-time collaborators Ben Affleck and Matt Damon team up once again in Air, a biographical sports drama based on true events about the origin of one of the most famous sneakers, the Nike Air Jordan.
Directed by Affleck, his first film as director since 2016, Air is also the first production for Affleck and Damon's production company Artists Equity. After showing in select cinemas, the film is now on Prime Video. The movie follows Nike's basketball talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) as he attempts to save Nike's failing basketball division in 1984 by signing rookie Michael Jordan, who he believes will be the greatest player of all time. Unless you've been living under a rock, you must know this basketball legend and his iconic pair of sneakers, the ones that made Nike one of the most successful sneaker brands today.
Air has beautiful visuals and cinematography that will easily transport you back in time. The grainy, washed-out colour gives the 70s-80s feel -- a similar mood and tone we saw in Affleck's previous film Argo (2012). He also does an amazing job capturing the period, the pop culture of the time, as well as the song choices.
While some may question what's particularly entertaining about this movie since we already know the outcome, Air isn't really a story about Jordan and his NBA career. It's also not about the outcome we all know. The beauty of Air is how it shows a well-executed chase.
In 1984, Nike was by no means the most popular shoe company on the planet. They were behind more successful companies like Adidas and Converse. The film looks into how a world-class shoe company with a struggling basketball division put their bet on one player.
We watch Damon's character, Sonny, try to figure out how to convince Michael Jordan and his family that Nike is where he should be. I appreciated the insight that we get through character interactions, which help show what was really on the line if Nike couldn't land the deal. This is a well-made underdog story, which is a very common formula in a sports film and similar to last year's Hustle, which is also a non-conventional underdog story.
Despite being aware of the outcome, I appreciate how the movie is still able to create an air of tension when it comes to whether Jordan will actually sign with Nike or if he's going with other leading brands at the time. It's interesting how such a simple story can be stretched and told in an engaging and intriguing way without feeling like it's too long and drawn out.
While there are great performances by many great actors here, such as Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina and Chris Tucker, the main star is definitely Damon. He is as charismatic as always in the role of Sonny, who has a kind of persona that we want to follow and root for. He does have flaws, but his earnestness and determination are infectious and engaging. Another favourite performance of mine was Viola Davis who plays Jordan's mother. She is savvy and brings a lot of strength and heart to the story. She is consistently looking out for her son's well-being.
Air is an entertaining film with a great insight into the history of sports and pop culture that anyone can enjoy, even if you aren't a sports fan. While it may not be a movie I constantly revisit, watching the cast interact and tell the story of how sports sponsorships were changed forever is a great way to spend two hours.
Matt Damon and Viola Davis in Air.
- Starring Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker
- Directed by Ben Affleck
- Now streaming on Prime Video